Yippee for Zippy

So you’ve gotten the impression that most memoirs are about trauma?

If you want to read something upbeat, you can’t miss A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel.

After the Prologue and a piece about the protagonist’s Baby Book as written by her mother, the first chapter from the voice of Zippy herself starts out this way:

Somehow my first wig and my first really excellent pair of slippers arrived simultaneously.

Now my hair, my actual human hair which grows out of my head, was slow in coming. I was bald until I was nearly three. My head was strangely crooked, and it happened that the little patches of wispy bird hair I did have grew only in the dents. Also my eyes were excessively large and decidedly close together. When my mother first saw me in the hospital she looked up with tears in her eyes and said to my father, “I’ll love her and protect her anyway.”

This book is absolutely delightful. Haven (Zippy) Kimmel’s life is described as both so typically middle class middle America and so hilariously funny, that you will be hooked from the first pages of Kimmel’s engaging voice. (Here’s a secret: I. love.this.book.)

So what did I learn from it? I learned that underneath the knee-slappingly funny self-deprecation and the obvious love of her town and her people, that there was still (lots of) dysfunction in Kimmel’s family.  It is possible to write a funny book about your family, even if your family is, well, normal in its problems.

I can’t resist telling you one of the funny things in the book. Throughout, Zippy’s mother is portrayed as lying on the couch, reading, eating, watching TV. A permanent couch potato.

When Kimmel was on her book tour for the book, she was asked by so many people if her mother ever did get up off the couch, so she wrote a sequel called She Got Up Off the Couch.

Yes, she did get up, and the sequel explains what Zippy’s mother ended up doing with her life.

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30 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

30 responses to “Yippee for Zippy

  1. Oh, Luanne, the title and cover alone makes me want to read this book. This sounds like a fun read…thanks!

  2. Funny…yet why does the mother view her adorable baby as defective? Still I’m intrigued.

    • Luanne

      I think she exaggerates her own looks for effect–to create that self-deprecating tone. It’s part of her charm. The way she begins the book (including the above quote) has sort of a mythical feel to it–as though she is creating the myth of Zippy.

  3. Love it! I will have to check these out.

  4. Ellen Morris Prewitt

    As you know, I love A Girl Named Zippy. It is such a charming book, and as you said, the genius of it is the warm humor reported from a (normal) dysfunctional family.

    • Luanne

      I was thinking of you when I wrote this one :). I haven’t read other books like Kimmel’s because the really funny ones are usually not as “heartful.”

  5. I read this (and the sequel) when they first came out, and I agree with you about the “heartful” quality of Kimmel’s writing. I also rate Zippy one of my favorite memoirs. I’ll have to reread these now. Thanks for the review!

    • Luanne

      Jennifer, I’m thrilled to hear you think so, too! Such good books. I feel that the sequel needs to be read after the first book. It wouldn’t have the same impact without the first, right? And it’s not as lighthearted.

      • I agree — I would recommend reading Zippy before She Got Up. Those things that are most touching about it are set up by the first book. It’s almost like the reader becomes part of the family by reading Zippy, which makes what happens in She Got Up more meaningful.

  6. I remember loving this book, but had no idea there was a sequel. Thank you!

  7. What you shared really caught my mind and entranced me with the child named, “Zippy!” I think it would be an interesting read and you are so kind to share this with us! I have saved in my drafts and will publish a post about a woman who wrote a novel called, “Pioneer Girl,” who involves Rose Wilder Lane in her mythical story, (2014). Her memoir is called, “Stealing Buddha’s Dinner,” by Bich Minh Nguyen, written in 2007. Maybe you have already heard or written about her? I think it may be right ‘up your alley,’ Luanne!

    • Luanne

      Robin, I hadn’t heard of Nguyen, but I just looked her up–she’s from Grand Rapids, only an hour away from where I grew up (although she’s much younger–isn’t everybody? 🙂 haha).Both books sound great! Thank you so much!!!! xo.

      • Thank you and so glad I connected you with someone who grew up only an hour away! You are welcome, too! I am so glad that you found this to be of interest, Luanne! I was hoping she would prove to be another memoir to study and enjoy. It has been awhile since I read the first book, now am so glad that she has another one to share! xo Robin

  8. I read on Amazon’s look inside: A Girl Named Zippy. Heartwarming and funny:)

  9. What a delicious story about her mother – It reminded me of Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park – only she never got up off the couch !!

  10. I loved this memoir! It’s a definite read 🙂

  11. I’m gonna get this one. The humor will be good for me! Thanks for the recommendation.

  12. We loved your write up of this story, Luanne and added it to our Friday Five – AND our OWN reading lists!

  13. Pingback: Books for Our Summer Reads | Fat-Bottom-Fifties Get Fierce

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